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Zimbabwe Teachers Agree to End Strike

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s teachers have agreed to end a strike that emptied classrooms for a year, after the government promised to review salaries and appealed for 458 million dollars’ aid for schools, according to officials.

Schoolteachers have been on strike since early last year to demand payment in foreign currency to cope with Zimbabwe’s stunning hyperinflation that has left the local dollar worthless.

They only returned to work for brief periods during that time.

The new education minister David Coltart, who took office this month when the Movement for Democratic Change joined a unity government, has agreed to review their demands while seeking international aid.

Coltart told the state-run Herald newspaper he had asked UNICEF and other donors for 458 million US dollars (360 million euros) to jump-start the education system over the next six months.

Unions said teachers had agreed to return to work next week while the government tried to secure the financing.

“We have reached an agreement that teachers must go back to school on Monday, while outstanding specific issues are being addressed,” Tendai Chikoore, president of the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association, told AFP.

“Government has committed itself to source funds to cater for our needs. We have agreed to go back to work solely on the goodwill shown by the government, but we are also demanding that our salaries must match what teachers are being paid in the region.”

Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers’ Union in Zimbabwe, said teachers have agreed to return to work. But they have asked that they be exempted from paying school fees for their children — unaffordable on their salaries.

Zhou said that the deal also ensured that teachers who did not report for work because of economic and political reasons would not be punished.

“We also agreed that after three months teachers’ salaries must be reviewed to meet regional standards of 15,000 South African rands a month.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that only 20 percent of students are attending classes, while almost all schools in rural areas are closed.–AFP

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